Some Thoughts on My First Novel

6:00 AM

In honor of my writing anniversary this year, I pulled down my bulky purple binder and began to read my first book.

Don't get me wrong. It's absolutely horrible. But it's also intriguing and fascinating to me (in a way I did not intend to make it when I wrote it). I've never really read my first book before. Sure, I went over it once and made notes [back when I was still serious about editing it and hopefully publishing it (HAAAAHA)] but I haven't, that I can remember at least, gone through and just read my book.

And my, is it interesting. Today, rather than giving you seven things I've learned in the style I've used in the past, I'm going to give you a few things I've noticed about my first book, and how they can help me, and hopefully you, in our writing journeys today.

(QUICK NOTE that Katie posted recently about her first book, and I couldn't help but think of her as I typed this up!)


The advantages to writing middle grade when you are in the middle grade is that you are the audience. And, more so than ever at that age, you write what you want to read.

The way I word things. The way I write description. The way I rationalize and think things through. The way I plan. The way I have my characters notice and observe and react to things. It's all so childish. And, for my purposes now, that's actually a good thing because it lets me know what a real eleven year old would think. It lets me know what kind of things they might notice, and how they might react to getting kidnapped or finding out they have magical powers. Even if the character's reaction isn't done well, you can still get a glimpse of the reaction in what happens.


There's nothing like looking back at your work and relishing in just how horrible it is. The writing is jerky, the plot is wild and often too coincidental. The characters are flat, they learn too fast, they all sound the same in dialogue ... and there's not really anything unique. There might be some good ideas, but the writing is so dull, that doesn't matter. There's nothing that makes your book stand out.

And then you look at your WIP. Maybe you're still in the first book stage, but I promise you that if you keep writing, and if you write a lot, you will get better. And, someday, you'll even get good.

It's so satisfying now to look back and see how different my first book and my fifth book really are. It took years of writing, hundreds of thousands of words, but I finally have something I can work on, something I know I can be proud of someday. I know what the mistakes are in my novel, and (for the most part) how to fix them.

I've come so far. And, whether you've been writing a week, a month, a year, five years, ten years--you've come from somewhere too. We all started, and we've all grown from that moment. So look back and let yourself appreciate just how bad you were at writing. It makes what you're doing now even more incredible. 


Writing has a way of slipping the hard things out of you. The fears and doubts, the insecurities. It reaches into our minds and is just small enough to grab hold of it, and it weaves it into your words. It's sometimes really hard to spot. I didn't realize it for years. I knew writing helped me emotionally, but I wasn't sure how or why. I just thought it was an escape.

But writing isn't really an escape. Because, in writing, we confront our deepest fears, our biggest questions, our deepest insecurities, and we line them up for all to see. It takes a discerning eye--often a writer's eye--to see these hidden gems. But they're what makes stories matter.

They're your theme.

If you're anything like me,  you might have started out thinking you didn't write theme into your books. I had somehow come across a writing "tip" early on in my journey that basically said, "Don't lay out your theme or you'll be preaching." At the time, I only had a vague idea of what theme was, so my only thought was, "Oh dear. I better not do that." So for several years after, I never read any articles on the importance of theme. I thought they were all lies.

*sighs at young self*

Theme is so important. And I firmly believe that there is theme in every story ever written. It just takes a discerning eye to find.

Why is there theme in every story ever written?

Because in every story, we have a character. And a character, in a good story, must face something.

That's where theme comes from. It can be simple, or it can be complex. It can be countless things. We can mean to tell readers this encouraging information, or we can just ignore the fact that we're even writing theme.

But when I look at the first book I wrote, and when I study my characters, I find a girl who just wants to matter, and realizes that even though she felt like she didn't, she did. I see themes of what love should look like, of friendship and bravery and hope and trust. I didn't mean to put any of this into my story. It wasn't my intention when writing about a very special girl to make others feel hopeful and special themselves. And yet, as I read this book, that's the gentle message it sends. That you are important, and you matter. Even if the whole world is oblivious to your existence, that doesn't mean you don't have a place in it. Even if you feel useless and insignificant, that doesn't mean you are. You're here for a reason, and you just have to be brave enough to step out and find that reason.

These are all things I was unintentionally saying in my first book. They were things I, as a young girl, needed to hear myself. And I can only imagine how many other children out there need those kinds of messages. How many times have we seen The Chosen One trope in fiction? It's prominent for a reason.

When you look at your old writing, you're looking at a treasure map. It might take a little hunting and a little work, but once you find the key, you'll be swimming in the buried treasure of authentic children and the messages they need to hear most.

How long ago did you write your first book? Are you still writing your first book? Have you broken out of the everything-i-write-is-horrible stage, or are you still struggling to find your voice? (Don't give up! It just takes time, and a lot of writing.)


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  1. love this so much!! made me think how those old stories really weren't a waste of time, just a learning experience (although they can be pretty horrible and embarrassing XD) thanks for this, Hannah <33

    sarah » the introverted extrovert

  2. It's been a long time since I've touched my first novel (has it really been five years since I wrote that thing?) But so much of what you wrote reminds me of little elven-year-old me sitting down to finish a 20k "monster." Writing what I want to write? Check. Childish writing and story? Check. Come a long way? Well, I hope so. Disregarding theme? Pfft - themes were for big, boring school books.

    I've been trying to actively not think about my first book (because it's so very cringe-worthy. But for the first time in a long time this post made me think back to my first little monster in a good way. I still cringe when I think about it, but you reminded me that there are good sides to every piece of work, even my first one. That was a story that Little-Me needed to tell, cliche as it was, and it does have some value. Thank you, Katie.

    ~True //

    1. Aw, I'm so glad you were able to look at your old book in a new way! It made you the writer you are today :)

  3. Oh wow, I haven't thought about my very FIRST story in ages! I remember I wrote it in 6th grade (so...also around 11 I think), and it was about a girl who went on this adventure to find a dragon and bring it back to her village and she revealed it in the middle of a parade or something. I don't know, but I was pretty proud of it haha. I wish I could find it and re-read it! I love everything you've learned from your early writing, I think that's something a lot of writers can definitely benefit from :)

    1. Aw! That's so cute! That's so sad that you lost it though. Did you write it by hand? Would it be in a notebook somewhere?

  4. I love that you were able to read it, and find the good parts in it. When I read my first book, I just want to burn it.

    1. If it tells you anything, I spent a good five minutes laughing over this one paragraph. The embarrassment still burns hot, and I make sure it stays out of sight so that curious family members don't try to read it :P

  5. I wrote my first book around 2011. I was twelve years old. It was obviously pretty awful but it makes me laugh.

    I'm still struggling to find my writing voice (though I am at fault for constantly pushing writing back).

  6. I came here from Sarah's blog :). I loved to hear your thoughts on your first book - so many writers hate theirs, but you truly learned from yours!
    Blessings in Christ,
    Bri from


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